Law Discussion – Heineken Cup, Round 1

The flags are waving around Europe again as fans support their teams in the Heineken Cup. Players strive with sinew and muscle, and in the midst of it there is the lone referee, trying to help them all succeed in their endeavours.

We have some incidents from five of the matches which may well help refresh our knowledge of the laws. They have the virtue of being real happenings, not imagined ones.

The matches we refer to are Ulster vs Gloucester, Leinster vs Leicester Tigers, Edinburgh vs Toulouse, Wasps vs Munster and Cardiff Blues vs Bristol.

1. Commentators

From time to time we have quoted commentators when they have promulgated wrong law information to the world. This did not happen once in the five matches we managed to watch, which was vast relief.

There are two worth mentioning from the Blues-Bristol match:

Commentator: “The Bristol player did go off-side but he was back before there was any impact upon play, which is why no decision was given there.”

That sounded excellent sense.

Tom Shanklin passed a long pass to Tom James, but it was forward. It was not obviously forward.

Having queried the call gently the commentator said: “It did seem though that it might have drifted forward.”

That was kind. But a forward pass is a forward pass not a forward catch. The ball must go forward off the hands, not because of momentum or wind.

2. Two technical issues

Man walked on the moon many moons ago, but in rugby football we battle with ordinary things.

a. Lines

More and more rugby is sharing grounds with soccer, and the markings of the two games differ. Apparently it is not possible to get rid of markings and so two sets of lines are visible on the field.

Peter Stringer of Munster tackles Paul Sackey of Wasps at the line and holds him up. The TMO is called in – but which line is the relevant line?

Man who walked on the moon must have a way of dealing with different lines for different codes.

b. Time

Do you remember the fuss the Canadians made during the World Cup about time?

The stadium clock – and the television screen – showed that time was up but the match lingered on and Japan beat Canada, much to Canada’s chagrin. They expected the time shown to be playing time.

In the Heineken Cup we are back to running time, not playing time.

Bristol are leading Cardiff Blues 13-3 and the clock shows 42 minutes 40 seconds when Shaun Perry passes to Lee Robinson who kicks. Robert Sidoli of the Blues charges down the kick and the ball goes into touch.

On 43 minutes Mark Regan of Bristol throws into the line-out. The throw is skew.

43 minutes 10 seconds: the referee orders a scrum
43 minutes 32 seconds: Jason Spice feeds the scrum

The ball comes back to the Blues. Spice gives the Dai Flanagan who chips with exquisite precision and Jamie Robinson scores. Ben Blair converts and the half-time whistle goes.

There are timekeepers at these matches. The television match official often doubles as a timekeeper and is in contact with the referee, able to hear him declare time off or time on. It is possible to synchronise the timekeepers time and the time on the stadium clock and the television. It gets done in all sorts of parts of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. It was eventually done at the World Cup in France.

It would make keeping up with the time easier for players and spectators.

3. 10-metres off-side

Brian O’Driscoll of Leinster kicks ahead. Andy Goode of the patterned hair falls back for the ball and before the goal-line plays the ball, knocking it back into his in-goal. He fetches the ball and from there, under pressure, kicks, but the ball slews off his boot wobbling infield to land about 6 metres inside the Leicester Tigers 22. There are Leicester Tigers players there, mos

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